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TORONTO — Jesperi Kotkaniemi and the Carolina Hurricanes, putting pen to paper on a beautiful bidding sheet, broke the NHL out of its late summer slumber.
The bold move to pry the No. 3 pick in the 2018 NHL draw from Montreal on a one-year, US$6.1 million contract in limited free agency, coupled with the Canadiens’ final decision to young center to run, yielded a lot of heads.
Count now former teammate Tyler Toffoli among those who did a double take.
“I thought it was all bizarre,” the 29-year-old Montreal winger said this week during the Canadian leg of the NHL/NHLPA media tour. “The whole situation was weird.”
Montreal’s decision not to match Carolina’s offer resulted in the Hurricanes receiving the first and third rounds in 2022.
Kotkaniemi, 21, fell short of expectations at the Canadiens – he was demoted to the minors in 2019-20, scoring just five goals and 20 points during the NHL’s pandemic-truncated 2020-21 campaign – causing the plunge of the big money from the hurricanes is even more surprising.
Kotkaniemi, who still has plenty of advantage, scored five goals and provided three assists in 19 play-off games as the Canadiens made an unlikely run to the Stanley Cup final. But he was a healthy scratch to open round one and again in Games 4 and 5 of the title series before Montreal bowed to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It is what it is … you’re not going to turn down $6 million,” said Toffoli, who led his team to 28 goals and 44 points after signing a $17 million four-year free agency contract. last season. “It’s a shame, but we have to move forward.”
Canadian Center Nick Suzuki thought he and Kotkaniemi would be the mainstay in central Montreal for ten years or more.
“How the company works, I think,” said the 22-year-old, who overtook Kotkaniemi in the pecking order by 41 points in 2020-21 before adding another 16 during the playoffs. “There are so many moving parts in the league, it’s hard to keep everyone together for a long period of time.
‘The quotation form is part of the company.’
And, of course, there was additional intrigue in a situation that seemed to border on personal between the two organizations after Montreal took a similar move for downtown Carolina. Sebastian Aho | in the summer of 2019.
The Hurricanes matched the Canadiens’ heavily preloaded five-year offer of $42,295 million — a tool used sparingly by NHL general managers — but clearly didn’t forget how things were unfolding.
Carolina’s first announcement of the move to Kotkaniemi was posted on Twitter in French, and the team attributed the same quote from Montreal GM Marc Bergevin when he tried to sign Aho with Hurricane counterpart Don Waddell.
The trolling continued with Kotkaniemi receiving a $20 signing bonus that matched Aho’s jersey number, while the $15 taped at the end of the $6.1 million deal represented the numbers the Finn had on his back. wore in Montreal.
Toffoli credited the Hurricanes for at least one thing: making a splash.
“It was noticed by people who don’t (follow) hockey,” he said. “It builds the game.
“Everyone talked about hockey for a week.”
The Canadiens, who also lost Philip Danault to the Los Angeles Kings in unlimited free agency, moved quickly to replace Kotkaniemi with the acquisition of the 25-year-old center Christian Dvorak of the Arizona Coyotes for two draft picks.
“(Bergevin) made a great move by adding Dvorak,” said Toffoli. “I always thought he was hard to play against when I was at LA
“I’m curious what he will bring.”
Montreal becomes my captain Shea Weber (foot/ankle) this season – the veteran blue-liner’s career could be over due to the injury – but Suzuki said it is his understanding goalkeeper Carey Price (knee surgery) will be good to go when training camp opens next week.
The Canadiens also added back help in free agency with the bruises David Savard, while Mathieu Perreault and Cedric Paquette were pre-registered. And Jonathan drouin is expected to return to the fold after leaving the team for personal reasons in late April.
“Definitely lost a few pieces, but I think we’ve added some great players,” said Suzuki. “We are in a position to compete.”
They’re just doing without Kotkaniemi, who makes his maiden trip to the Bell Center on October 21 as a member of the Hurricanes.
“I was happy for him,” added Suzuki. “Difficult offer to decline, of course. But hard to see him go, (we) wish him the best.
“It will be fun to play against him.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 14, 2021.
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